The venerable Internet standards agency, the IEEE, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have agreed to collaborate on setting a joint standard for inter-cloud interoperability.
The cooperation between the two powerful agencies, agreed to July 25, may bring the possibility of a vendor-neutral means of moving from one proprietary cloud system to another. That possibility may be made easier after the backers of the Open Container Initiative reached agreement on an OCI 1.0 specification for a container format and container runtime environment. The initiative includes the major vendors of container tools, engines and deployment systems.
Amazon Web Services, IBM, Google and Microsoft all use API calls and virtual machine formats that are proprietary to them. The differences make it more difficult to move a workload out of one vendor's service and into another.
At the same time, the degree of difficulty between vendor technologies is narrower than it has been in the past, where drastically different operating systems and hardware architectures threw up impregnable barriers between vendor platforms.
Want to learn more about how NIST can influence standards? See NIST Releases Version of Cybersecurity Framework for Small Business.
"There is a growing recognition that the lack of cloud federation in a landscape of multiple independent cloud providers is limiting the service reach, resources and scalability that can be offered in a rapidly expanding marketplace," said Bob Bohn, chair of the IEEE Intercloud Working Group. The group is already working on SIIF or Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation. The standard is also known by the designation IEEE P2302.
The IEEE is seeking to establish "an open framework for cloud-to-cloud federation," Bohn added in the announcement. To allow workloads to move freely from cloud to cloud could have the same beneficial effect as the Internet had on information sharing and ecommerce, he suggested.
In order for such a open framework to exist, different cloud providers would need a shared vocabulary of resources and way to define their different topologies in a manner that made the systems of one recognizable to the systems of the others. In addition, they'd need a common system for determining trust.
The part of NIST that the IEEE Intercloud Working Group is synching up with is the NIST Public Working Group on Federated Cloud. Global telephone systems have been integrated to allow the exchange of traffic. Network segments from around the world have been integrated into the Internet. "Using such federation concepts...an Internet Service Provider will facilitate access to the entire global Internet and leverage the capabilities of many service providers behind the scenes," the announcement said. Federation of service should be able to be accomplished "at any level in the cloud stack," meaning that one software-as-a-service should be able to operate with any other and a platform-as-a-service likewise, as well as infrastructure-as-a-service.
The two bodies "are seeking to meet cloud stakeholder demands by enabling cloud federation in order to bring more open and advanced cloud offerings that will help build a more robust economy for all stakeholders," said John Messina, chair of the NIST Public Working Group on Federated Cloud.
Kickoff meetings between the two are set for Aug. 31. NIST will be represented by Messina and Dr. Craig Lee of The Aerospace Corp. The IEEE body will be chaired by Bohn and vice chaired by David Bernstein of Cloud Strategy Partners. All stakeholders in the cloud ecosystem are encouraged to participate.